I decided way back in 1999 that if I was going to do a marathon, I wanted to do the London Marathon. My illustrious career as a Sunday League football player was coming to an end and it was clear that Arsenal had missed their chance to snatch me up! However, soon afterward, when training at distance at 14 miles, my first of many setbacks over the next 12 years happened when I damaged my cruciate ligament in my right knee. After a few years of falling over and not being able to run past four miles without needing six months off, my doctor sent me to hospital where the ligament damage was diagnosed as serious enough to need an operation.
I had the reconstruction of the cruciate operation in 2005 and was back running in 2007 and when I completed my first half-marathon in the October, I was well on the way to getting enough miles under my belt to do the big one in about four hours! Jump forward to January 2008 and I had Achilles Tendonitis that set me back a further two and a half years. So last year it was time to defer my entry to the London Marathon and try for this year. Great guns in the latter part of 2010 (I was up to 3 miles!) were scuppered once more by injury when I tripped over a tree stump and tore a large part of thigh muscle.
With an expensive sports physio bill building and some dogged determination, I took my first steps on the road again on January 6th 2011 with a gentle half mile jog to see if the leg would support the exercise. Time was no longer a target for me as the leg still had and has, muscle mass missing after the fall. The main goal was to get around without stopping.
So seeing the hot forecast for the 2011 race was not the best news I could have had. Still my prep had been quite good (22 miles before taper) and my pace a steady 12 minutes on average so I was hoping to get round in less than 5:30. I had been told that the crowd carry you round and this can be said for the last four miles. My body was crying out for me to stop but the roar from the crowd is like nothing I have experienced before. It was like bearing down on a goal with the crowd cheering you to score. My name was being called and at times chanted (STARRY, STARRY, STARRY!) and with every cheer I strode forward to that goal of finishing without stopping and walking.
Tears clogged my throat as I thanked the young lad who congratulated me while placing my medal over my neck. 5 Hours and 27 minutes of my life had been spent realising a 12 year dream, and no I never stopped. I was not one of those finishing with a cracking time to boast about but what I did do, for me, was just as impressive. I went out like a tortoise and over took many hares on the way.
Mark Starr (Swindon)